The court-appointed monitor of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office shared results from his team's first quarterly assessment of the MCSO last night at a community meeting in Guadalupe. But tensions ran high, especially given Arpaio's contentious history with the town.
Chief Robert Warshaw and his team have been charged with monitoring Arpaio's office since January, a result of the May 2013 federal court finding that the MCSO unconstitutionally relied on race during traffic stops of Latinos in Maricopa County. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the 200 or so attendees in the packed Frank Elementary School gym were Latino citizens, many of them residents of Guadalupe.
The Arizona ACLU calls Guadalupe the "site of one of the MCSO's unlawful, racial profiling-based operations," and lingering resentment was clear last night.
In 2008, the town was subject to one of the MCSO's "saturation raids," a sweep in which 45 people were arrested over two days. Mayor Rebecca Jimenez publicly denounced the raid as racial profiling, and the MCSO severed its contractual ties with the town shortly afterward.
"Guadalupe was one of the sites of the most major crime-suppression operations by the Sheriff's Office six years ago," said Alessandra Soler, the Arizona ACLU's executive director. "To many, that probably feels like yesterday. There are many in this room who believe that that raid really was damaging to the community. We are here today to start repairing and rebuilding that trust. We are all here in good faith. We are here because we believe we can begin to have a conversation about what rebuilding trust means. We need to hear your voices."
Warshaw introduced his team--eight men and one woman--as well as representatives from the MCSO. He addressed the crowd in Spanish and English, outlining his role as an employee of the court and presenting the results of his first quarterly report, issued on September 18.
The monitoring team determined that 87 elements of the federal court's order were subject to close inspection. Their report, a summary of their six-month assessment of the MCSO that began in January and ended on June 30 of this year, found that the MCSO was not in full compliance with 76 of those 87 requirements.
"While that is not a good number, and I don't necessarily think it's something that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is happy with, the truth is that based on our experience in other projects similar to this one across the county, first reports do not always produce great results," Warshaw said.
"The numbers are not good," Warshaw repeated, though he made clear he has seen evidence that the MCSO is working to improve. Positive developments listed in his report included general support for changes among MCSO deputies, an end to immigration investigations during traffic stops, and clearer reasons being given for traffic stops.
But the report also found that the MCSO needs to work on big-picture change instead of technical compliance with the court order, and that rampant blaming of higher-ups, particularly those no longer employed by the MCSO, was holding back progress.
The report was the first of many to come. The MCSO needs to focus on creating policies consistent with the court's order, providing training to deputies on those policies, and, finally, implementing them, Warshaw said.
"So right now we are very much in the paper phase: the writing of policies, the creation of curriculum, to some degree on implementation, the delivery of training. But in terms of our assessing whether or not deputies are acting in accordance with the constitution and treating the pubic as the public is entitled to be treated, that is yet to be determined," Warshaw said.
MCSO Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan responded to Warshaw's report by listing a long series of changes his office already has implemented. These include: 15 internal inspections and audits; the amending of 11 policies and procedures; training sessions on the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments--the two violated by the MCSO, according to the federal judge--and on bias-free policing; a tracking system installed on all patrol cars to document and analyze MCSO traffic stops; an improved ratio of deputies to supervisors; the development of an MCSO community-outreach division; and an early intervention system, used to "alert us if we have a deputy sheriff that has been doing things outside of policy," Sheridan said. That system notifies higher-ups if a deputy has a worrisome number of citizen complaints about rudeness or excessive force.
Sheridan said the MCSO also has been working on diversifying it force. About 25 percent of the MCSO's 3,500 employees are Latino, Sheridan said, and 6 percent are African-American. The office employs 87 individuals with resident alien cards, he added.
"As you can see, we at the MCSO, under the direction of Sheriff Arpaio, have made many changes. Not only because of the court order, but we want the citizens, all the citizens in Maricopa County, to know that we serve everyone," Sheridan said.
Sheridan called on citizens to focus on the future instead of grievances from the past. "We cannot do it if your minds are closed to the fact that we are changing, that we are changing rapidly and that we are working to move forward. If we continue to go back and talk about what happened six years ago, eight years ago, we can never move forward," he said.
This statement would come back to haunt him. About an hour into the event, Warshaw opened the floor to questions, and most audience members took the opportunity to share stories of profiling and brutality. "If we're going to keep moving forward, we are going to have to correct the wrongs that were done back then," one man said.
One of the monitoring team's findings in the report was that the MCSO "enjoys only a distant relationship with the communities it serves" -- and that sentiment was loud last night. Many citizens raised concerns about the MCSO's lack of cultural sensitivity, particularly in Guadalupe.
"The basic problem is that the people and the department look upon each other as adversaries," said David Myers, a Catholic priest and lawyer. "Their gang against our gang. They need to put down the people so they can put themselves up. That's fatal. That will ruin our community. Joe Arpaio for almost 20 years has undermined the development of our community. That is wrong. It needs to change. I have worked 20 years to try to get anywhere with the Sheriff's Office, and I've gotten nowhere. I believe the only solution is to remove the sheriff from this community," he said.
The crowd erupted into applause.
Several citizens called on Arpaio to apologize to the town for the 2008 raids, and Rebecca Jimenez, the mayor, seconded them. "Sheriff Arpaio did come to our town under false pretenses," she said.
Beyond that, Jimenez said the MCSO has a long and sordid history of mistreating the citizens of Guadalupe. Responding to one citizen's tale of having his door kicked in by MCSO deputies looking for someone who did not live in his home, Jimenez said MCSO deputies also raided her home with guns drawn, and that the same thing happened to her father. "These are not isolated incidents. We were terrorized in this community for many years. This used to be known as a dumping ground for rogue deputies," she said.
"We've always known about the racial profiling," Jimenez said. "But because of the verdict last year, now the world knows it. And there will be accountability."
She demanded--then lowered her expectations to a request--that Guadalupe receive a public apology from Arpaio and the MCSO.
Guadalupe again contracts MCSO services today, but Jimenez used six months of negotiations to ensure that two amendments were added to the new contract. The first requires cultural training for any deputies assigned to Guadalupe. The second makes it easier for citizens and local politicians to have deputies removed from their assignment to the town.
Throughout the evening, Warshaw made it clear that he and his team wanted to hear these stories, and that hearing them will help to make the overhaul of the MCSO come to fruition.
"This will not happen in six months. This will not happen in a year," he said. "As to when it will happen, I can't say. But what I can say is we will continue to do our job on behalf of the court, but we must be able to relate to real-life experiences that members of this community are having with the MCSO so we can make the determination if the change is real."
The night's final comment pushed back on this. "He's still violating the rights of our people," one man said. "We can submit evidence and testimonies if that's what you want. This day and on we will continue to come and give our testimonies. But how much testimony do you need to say he's violating the order right now?"
At the end of the night, Warshaw and his team as well as Chief Deputy Sheridan stuck around to hand out cards and answer questions. The event was the third meeting of its kind, with monthly gatherings scheduled to take place throughout the MCSO monitoring process.
The monitoring team's full complete first quarterly report can be found here.
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